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By Ellen S. Comerford

Disney's "Aida" is currently on stage at Shea's Performing Arts Center. The award-winning musical, inspired by the Verdi opera, was written by Elton John and Tim Rice and is their first collaboration since the enormously successful "The Lion King."

"Aida" is a story involving star-crossed lovers that begins in modern time in the Egyptian room of a museum. Amneris, once an ancient Egyptian queen, invites the audience to witness a tale of love and power at a time when war raged between Egypt and its southern neighbor, Nubia.

As the tale begins Radames, an Egyptian army captain, is on his way home when he encounters a group of captured Nubian women and is immediately taken by the courageous, feisty Nubian princess Aida, who takes up a sword to defend her people. Radames takes her home to Egypt as a gift for his fiancee, the Egyptian princess Amneris. Thus the love triangle begins, along with some plotting by Chief Minister Zoser, who reveals to the audience his plot to poison the reigning Pharaoh so that Radames can rule Egypt. In the meantime, Radames and Aida fall in love. At her urging, he gives all his possessions to the Nubian slaves, but then Aida's father is captured and more problems occur. Radames (at Aida's insistence) marries Amneris in an attempt to bring peace to the two countries. The leads are all excellent -- Kelli Fournier as Amneris, Jeremy Kushnier as Radames, and Paulette Ivory as Aida. Ivory shines in the title role. Even as an Egyptian slave her posture says queen.

"Aida" is a very lavish, visual production -- 112 yards of china silk are used to form the Nile and 24 feet of white netting were used to make Amneris' wedding veil. Impressive as these statistics are, what stays with you is color -- intense color. Picture the blue of the water in the palace pool, complete with underwater swimmers visible to the audience. Picture a pyramid made of laser lights. Picture lavish, brightly-colored costumes, dramatic, intensely-colored backdrops and lighting and you have the essence of this "Aida."

"Aida" remains onstage at Shea's Performing Art Center through May 26. Take a trip down the Nile to ancient Egypt. It's a wonderful trip!

Niagara Falls Reporter May 21 2002